Thursday night, several thousand Minnesotans gathered in protest at St. Paul’s J.J. Hill Montessori School, the workplace of Philando Castile, the 32-year-old black man fatally shot by a Saint Anthony Police officer in Falcon Heights Wednesday.
Family members and school staff addressed a crowd of several thousand gathered at the school, remembering Castile’s contributions to their community while decrying what they said was an obvious case of excessive use of force by police. Many in the crowd called for an immediate indictment of the officer involved, who the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension later identified as Jeronimo Yanez. Yanez and the other officer involved in the incident, Joseph Kauser, have been placed on administrative leave pending the BCA’s investigation, according to a Saint Anthony Police Department statement.
From the school, the crowd marched to Governor Mark Dayton’s residence, where hundreds had gathered since early Thursday morning and protested into early Friday morning.
Castile’s death comes at a time of tense debate over police killings of African Americans, both in Minnesota and nationwide. Castile was the 123rd black person killed by police in the United States this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman addressed the crowd Thursday night, noting the proximity of Castile’s shooting to that of Jamar Clark, a black man shot by Minneapolis police last year. “I wanted to start off with an apology,” he said to the crowd. “I’ve never felt pain like I did today … One life cut short is one life too many.”
Though the shooting took place in Falcon Heights, not St. Paul, Coleman said he was doing everything within his power to expedite the investigation, saying that waiting “six months or three months for answers” was too long. The Clark case, which resulted in non-indictment of the officers involved after local and federal investigations, took several months before any official findings were released.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who spoke earlier Thursday at a press conference, said that he had requested a federal investigation into the shooting, saying that he believes the Saint Anthony officer would have never fired his gun had the driver and passenger been white.
Yet Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said that Minnesota’s elected officials simply aren’t doing enough to end what she calls a long, historic pattern of police brutality against the state’s black community.
Levy-Pounds said the black community needs to start holding the state’s elected officials accountable for the myriad racial disparities in Minnesota. If the city and state governmental officials won’t act in the interest of the state’s people of color, she said, then the community needs to elect new officials. “We need to make Minnesota a model for what it means to stand up for justice and to mean it,” she said.
Castile’s death drew worldwide attention after a video of the shooting’s aftermath was uploaded to Facebook. Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds took the footage, which shows Castile slumped over and bleeding, a police officer in the background seen pointing his pistol in the car window. According to Reynolds, the two were pulled over due to a broken tail light and Castile had informed the officer he was armed with a permit to carry, and was reaching for his wallet before the officer fired the shots that killed him.